Accentuate the Positive

Sept. 18, 2020
Let’s look at some of the good things going on in our industry right now.

Let’s face it, there’s been plenty of doom and gloom the last few months. Top of the list is the ongoing public health crisis. A knock-on effect of that has been an economic crisis (the exact dimensions of which are still unknown). Add to that a slow-rolling political crisis, amplified (as it always is) by the election season. All this against a background of civil unrest. Strange times to be living in.

If you need more to worry about, just turn on your TV. But keep in mind, most of the news you see on TV these days is not designed to inform you, it’s designed to upset you. I think because those are the kind of stories that drive ratings. 

For example, I live in Chicago. Not in one of the suburbs that make up “Chicagoland,” but minutes from downtown. I can see the skyline from my deck. To listen to the news you would think I’m caught in some kind of urban hellscape, equal parts Mad Max and Escape from New York. And that’s just not the city I live in. I’m not saying we don’t have our problems, or that the work to solve them isn’t serious and necessary—but I am saying the good far, far outweighs the bad.

So, keeping in mind the challenges we face are real—that we have friends, family, co-workers and fellow-citizens facing some of the most difficult times in their lives—let’s look at some of the good things going on in our industry right now.

The top story for out September print edition was news from the latest Kitchen & Bath Market Index Report. It shows a remarkable uptick in optimism. In Q1 respondents rated the future business outlook at just 19.8 (on a scale from 0-100, with 0 weak and 100 strong). Now that outlook stands at 61.9.

It’s clear from the report that customers remain cautious, often seeking out lower price-point options, but the pent-up demand for home improvement (especially with so many people stuck at home) is starting to break through. NKBA members in manufacturing, building/construction, design and retail now expect a full-year’s sales decline of just 4.4% in 2020, a considerable improvement from the 13.7% drop expected when surveyed last quarter.

Looking at the wider housing market, a recent survey from Meyers Research shows August is defying seasonal expectations with 52 percent of builders still reporting week-over-week increases in contract sales through the end of the month. 64 percent of builders now plan that they’ll either meet or exceed their original (pre-pandemic) starts plan. In fact, it looks like the biggest challenge to builders this year is not going to be on the demand side, but on the supply side thanks to the skyrocketing price of lumber.

In his most recent column, our Management columnist Al Schwartz says the current unemployment crisis might actually be a golden opportunity to address the manpower crisis in the skilled trades. For someone who is out of work, why wouldn’t they try to enter an industry that’s been deemed necessary, where people are still working?

Or for someone thinking about attending a traditional four-year college, part of the appeal has always been the “college experience” (whether that’s in-person instruction or coffee shops, keg parties and coeds on the quad). Well, now that experience has been reduced to Zoom meetings and online tests. With the experience being relatively the same, why wouldn’t someone take a chance on the trades and make some good money, debt-free, in only a fraction of the time?

If you still need a pep talk, read the latest from our Marketing columnist, Matt Michel. He asserts (and I agree) that there’s a lot to be optimistic about—the economy, the industry, the basic goodness of people—if we only choose to see it. Pessimism, he says, “leads to a life of scarcity. Optimism leads to a great life.”

About the Author

Steve Spaulding | Editor-inChief - CONTRACTOR

Steve Spaulding is Editor-in-Chief for CONTRACTOR Magazine. He has been with the magazine since 1996, and has contributed to Radiant Living, NATE Magazine, and other Endeavor Media properties.

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